‘A Good Place to Live’ (and work)

Local business owner enjoys giving back to community by restoring historic home


SILVERHILL, Alabama -- “Silverhill: A Good Place to Live”

Signs with these words greet visitors to the tiny town nestled along Alabama 104 and County Road 55 in Central Baldwin County.

For Sharon Lavender and her family, Silverhill has been a good place to live and grow up, going back generations, with the Wilson side of her family going back more than 100 years.

Articles have been written about her great-grandfather, John Travis Wilson, owning the first Cadillac (or Caddy) in Baldwin County.

Her grandmother, Ella Ruth Wilson, married Reggie Lavender and the couple owned and operated a seafood business in Robertsdale. Later, Ella Ruth Lavender, had a café in town.

Their son, Robert “Bobby" Lavender (Sharon’s father) started as a police officer in Robertsdale and would go on to serve as assistant chief in Daphne for many years. Sharon’s mother, the daughter of Leroy and Ruby Boykin, is also a local native with strong ties to the area.

“I have many fond memories growing up, spending time in Silverhill,” Sharon Lavender said.

When the opportunity came to start a business in Silverhill six years ago, East Bay Realty, she took it, renting a small office for her business.

As time passed, Lavender said, she began to outgrow the small office space and, as fortune would have it, saw an opportunity to expand her business while restoring a historic structure in the community she loves.

It all started with a friend, she said, who had acquired the old Kucera homestead, located next to town hall off of Broad Street (County Road 55).

“The structure dates back to beyond 1940,” she said. “I helped him sell the home and the new owner had a lot of plans to renovate the structure.”

When the property owner was unable to make many of the renovations he wanted, he decided to sell the property. That’s when Lavender had an idea.

“Why not purchase the property and have the renovations done myself,” she said. “I needed the space and I have always loved home. My parents grew up with them."

She solicited the help of her daughter, Jessica, who purchased the property and they began the painstaking process of hiring someone to do the renovations.

“It needed a lot of work,” she said. “We had a lot of contractors come in, look at the amount of work that needed to be done and say they wouldn’t touch it.”

But eventually, they did find a contractor, Randy Martin, who agreed to take on the job. They also hired Fauver’s Movers – the same company that moved and reset the historic Little Bohemian Hall in town – to raise the structure and fix the foundation.

Inside, Lavender said, the two-story structure had to be completely gutted.

“We tried to save the wood floors wherever we could,” she said, “but floors in the old dining room had to be completely redone.” The dining room now serves as her conference room, she said.

The stairs leading to the second floor were sanded and re-stained, she said. Upstairs, she said, was basically a loft area with low ceilings and two bedrooms which had been occupied by the Kucera children.

“Even though there were basically two rooms, there was not a wall separating them,” she said.

So they decided to raise the ceiling. The upstairs is now used for agents’ offices and training classes. Lavender’s daughter also uses the space as an art studio.

It took more about seven to nine months to complete the renovations, said Lavender, who has been operating her business from the location for about three years and is now preparing once again to expand.

“I’m just so happy that we were able to do something to give back to our community,” she said, “and make it an even nicer place to live.”